Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Cost of Responsible Living

I have read a number of times lately that the cost of changing to energy careful technologies is exorbitant. Apparently this has become a conservative sacred cow. From what I have been able to tell from my research, mostly into the European experience, where countries like Germany, the Netherlands and England are far ahead of us in the transition to renewable energy sources, this is pure myth and a deliberate misrepresentation. Just for a single example, capturing and reburning the carbon and sulfur emissions from coal is an inexpensive change and increases efficiency in the long run. We just don’t want to do it. I am not qualified to argue this at a national or planet level, but I can definitely see the effects of changing to green technology at our home, the savings of living in an energy responsible manner have far outweighed the transition costs.

Maria has been the driving force behind our pursuit of responsible living. She has done the research and much of the work. There has been a pronounced positive effect on our finances. Simple changes, like driving less, planning our trips, controlling our shopping, combining errands, not going unless we absolutely have to, and using the more fuel efficient of our vehicles, have added up to a big savings. The biggest single savings has been in electric use. We are still not off the grid, but we have cut electric use drastically. Our most recent electric bill was $26. We have gone from an annual expenditure for electricity of $2700 to about $690 this past year. That $2000 difference alone paid for a lot of what we have invested in the transition.

It is not a matter of being cheap, it is a matter of thinking about what we are doing and the impact. For example, we resist buying anything new if there is an alternative. Yes, this is cheaper, but there is an energy impact for every new item manufactured that we avoid by buying used. There are also issues of toxicity. There are hazardous chemicals present in all textiles. Used garments have at least some of these washed out.

Granted, what we are doing, the opportunities available to us living in rural Kentucky, are not available to everyone. But then, there are more resources available in a more cosmopolitan area than we have here in some ways, better libraries, closer shopping, a community that is interested in networking and cooperation toward sustainable goals. Every building can be improved. We can start to think about our expenditures in resources, not just currency. It is the planning that is saving us the money.

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